Why is it so critical?
Distancing is currently the most important factor we can control in the COVID-19 outbreak, and therefore critical. The virus is spread from an infected person via droplets. These droplets can travel up to 6 feet (1-2 metres). By maintaining this distance from one another, we can control the spread.
Controlling the spread of the virus will help us to 'flatten the curve'. This means that we minimize the burden on the health care system and allow those that do get sick - from COVID-19 or another illness to get adequate medical care. In many other countries where the virus has hit hard, medical professionals are having to make difficult decisions on who gets what care. By distancing now, we can manage the number of people with the virus and prevent the same situation happening here.
What is distancing?
Social distancing doesn’t mean all human interaction stops. Some suggest “physical distancing” would be a better phrase than “social distancing” because the goal is to separate physically, not emotionally. The fundamental rule is to maintain the 6 feet between you and other people and avoid mass gatherings.
How do I practice distancing?
Work from home if you can. Avoid public transportation. Don’t shake hands. Limit nonessential travel. Avoid social gatherings. If/when you go outside, keep to the 6 feet rule, avoid touching public surfaces and wash your hands after going back inside.
Do low risk people need to practice distancing too?
Absolutely. It’s as important for low risk people to distance themselves as high-risk people. Research published recently suggests that mild and asymptomatic cases may be driving the pandemic. If low-risk people don’t socially distance, then the entire containment process is not effective. Every single reduction in the number of contacts you have per day with relatives, with friends, co-workers, in school will have a significant impact on the ability to control the virus spread. This strategy saved thousands during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and, more recently, in Mexico City during the 2009 flu pandemic.
Why 6 feet?
Experts believe the virus is mainly spread through droplets that come out of your mouth and nose. When an infected person speaks, exhales (remember they may be asymptomatic), coughs or sneezes, the droplets travel about 6 feet (1 to 2 meters) before gravity pulls them to the ground. It's important to try to block coughs or sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve, so as to not send those droplet flying directly toward someone nearby.
How long will we need to practice social distancing?
That is a big unknown, according to experts. A lot will depend on how well the social distancing measures in place work and how much we can slow the pandemic down. Prepare to hunker down for at least a month, and possibly much longer. The best way to ensure this is over sooner is to follow the distancing precautions.
Social distancing... self-quarantining... self-isolating - what's the difference?
Self-quarantining is a precautionary measure for people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus and lasts two weeks, the length of time during which symptoms emerge in 99% of cases. Those who have travelled need to follow this precaution, as well as those who have had contact with a suspected or confirmed case. Self-quarantining occurs to monitor whether someone develops the illness.
Self-isolation is a safety measure for people who either have tested positive for the coronavirus or suspect they could have it due to symptoms. They pose a danger to others but must also be monitored carefully in case they need to be hospitalized. Self-isolation prevents those who have (or suspect they have) the virus from spreading it.
Social distancing is the protocol for those who are well and have no reason to suspect that they may have contracted the virus.
Can I leave my house? Is it ok to go for a walk?
It’s okay to go outside. You should go outdoors to get fresh air and exercise — to walk your dog, go for a hike in a secluded area (popular trails, like Quarry Rock are closed) or ride your bicycle, for example. The point is not to remain indoors, but to avoid being in close contact with people. You may also need to leave the house for medicines or other essential resources. When you do leave, wipe down any surfaces you come into contact with, disinfect your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer and avoid touching your face. Above all, frequently wash your hands and maintain the 6 feet rule.
Who should avoid going outdoors?
People who have coughs and sneezes should stay home as much as possible, and call ahead to the doctor's office if they're planning to get their illness checked out. People who have confirmed coronavirus illness should stay home, as should those who were in close contact with a confirmed case.
Can I go to the supermarket?
Yes, buy as much as you can at a time to minimize trips (however, only what you need - do not stockpile, stores will be restocked as normal!) and pick a time when the store is least likely to be crowded. Be aware that any surface inside the store may be contaminated, especially shopping cart handles. If it’s a long shopping trip, you may want to bring hand sanitizer with you and disinfect your hands in between. When you get home, wash your hands right away. Those at high risk may want to avoid grocery shopping if they can help it, especially if living in densely populated areas.
Do not use reusable bags or boxes. Retailers are currently advised to provide clean carry-out bags.
Can family come to visit?
Limit your interaction and video chat instead, when possible. Elderly relatives and others at risk should stay away. However, you don’t want family members to feel isolated or not have the support of loved ones, so check in with them by phone or plan activities to do with them on video.